Alison Glinn reveals all about newbooks Book of the Year
I love the Book of the Year. After we launch the initial search through the magazine we receive all your suggestions; some by phone, some written on the order form, some through the website and some sent in as the only slip of paper in the envelope. As the suggestions ﬂow in it quite quickly becomes apparent which are the forerunners, and there are few surprises in those. They are often dictated by prize shortlists, a popular author’s new release, the Richard and Judy Book Club and, of course, our wonderful selection of Featured Titles. I know that reading groups like to have our list of the top ten as suggestions of ‘good reads’ that they can use throughout the year, and I believe that the top ten is often added to readers’ wish lists in time for Christmas!
However, from my privileged position as the person who adds all the votes to the Excel spreadsheet as they come in, the ones that snag my attention are the unheard-of titles, the weird and wonderful ones that often only receive one vote. Of course there will be a few that are familiar; the one that everyone else loved a couple of years ago but which that particular reader has just discovered, such as The Immortal Memory of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Plus the title from the Man Booker winner, Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies; my copy sits on the kitchen bookcase like a doorstop recrimination as I confess that the pristine pages have yet to be opened. Then there are the reminders of books that I meant to add to my must-read pile, but that slipped away: Red Dust Road by that wonderful Scottish writer Jackie Kay and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, which was recommended by someone in my book group. As for that classic Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence, first read when I was a student, it’s deﬁnitely time to reread it. Sometimes it’s the titles that catch my attention; The Book with No Name by Anonymous, The Spider King’s Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo, Ctrl-Alt-Delete by Dave Lewis and HHhH by Laurent Binet: All
very intriguing. No Name turns out to be a strange, possibly drug-fuelled crime story. Spider King is a modern day Romeo and Juliet set in Lagos. Ctrl-Alt is a dark thriller about cyber-stalking in Wales and HHhH is a clever story about the assassination attempt on Heydrich, head of the Gestapo. (Apparently ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich’, when in the German, gives the initials letters HHhH.) Others that caught my eye include; A Man of Parts by David Lodge (I love his books but this is a title that’s new to me) and Jepp, Who Deﬁed The Stars by Katherine Marsh; a book for teens, based on a real seventeenth-century ﬁgure, about a young man who deﬁed his destiny.
So I’d like to suggest to you, although the prize shortlists may recommend some good reading, next time take a closer look at the longlists.
But back to our top ten titles In newbooks72 (Nov/Dec) we gave you the shortlist of the most popular ten
titles and asked you to vote for your favourite. I can now reveal that the winner is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce published by Transworld.